Biology of odoriferous defensive stink glands of the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum
Chemical secretion is a powerful weapon for both defense and attack that is often found in the insect world. The agricultural pest beetle Tribolium castaneum effectively uses chemical defense against vertebrate predators and parasitical microorganisms. Like other tenebrionid beetles it produces toxic and repellent benzoquinone derivatives via its two pairs of secretory organs in its prothorax and abdomen, referred to as odoriferous or - more convenient - stink glands.
We are interested in understanding the biosynthesis and controlled release of the defensive compounds of Tribolium stink glands at a molecular level. In this study I want to identify and characterize genes that are involved in the production of the chemical toxic secretions to shed light on the genetic network and the biochemical pathway behind the beetle’s chemical defense system. Understanding the regulation mechanisms may provide new approaches for controlling coleopteran pests.